Nepal marks rice planting day
Farming communities across Nepal came out by their hundreds of thousands to transplant rice seedings on Tuesday, which is officially National Paddy Plantation Day.
Most wore masks as the men waded knee-deep into flooded terraces to level the soil, so that the seedlings could be planted, a work traditionally done by women.
Despite the pandemic and deadly floods this month, most farmers were happy to be out in the fields to take advantage of a monsoon that arrived on time with plenty of rain. Paddy plantation day also coincided with a relaxation of Covid-19 lockdowns this week.
The 15th day of the Nepali month of Asar is marked as National Paddy Planting Day, and a day for celebration, not just work. Farmers plant their paddy to song and dance, partake in joyous mud-slinging, and enjoy the traditional feast of 'dahi-chiura', curd and beaten rice.
Farmers in Pokhara Valley (pictured below), which grows Nepal's most famous indigenous varieties of rice, were out in force on the terraces at Tari above Begnas Lake and Birauta. Most of them wore masks.
After suffering erratic monsoons for the past two decades, Nepal has had favourable and timely rains in the past few years. This has resulted in an increase in rice production. In 2020, rice harvests increased by 1.3% to over 5.62 million tonnes of paddy compared to the year before.
Rice is the most important crop in Nepal with more than two-thirds of farming households depending on it for their livelihood and income, in turn contributing more than 7% to the GDP.
Rice is grown in the Tarai plains, along Himalayan Valleys, and up to
3,200m in Jumla Valley -- the highest rice growing area in the world.
The annual rice planting day is also a reminder of the fact that Nepal is more dependent on the import of this staple than ever before. It imported rice worth Rs39 billion mainly from India between August 2020 and April 2021, up 64% from the same period the previous year.
Pokhara photos: Krishna Mani Baral
Bhaktapur photos: Monika Deupala and Amit Machamasi